I've been planning to publish abstracts from this article I came across for a long time.
The full text is available for download from NCBI.
The rational cure for prereproductive stress syndrome revisited by M Hayry
"If it is irrational to allow the worst outcome of our actions, and if it
is immoral to cause suffering, then it is irrational and immoral to have children.
...I claimed that it is irrational to have children, if
(a) it is irrational to deliberately allow the worst outcome of our actions in a given situation,
(b) to have children allows this.
I also claimed in my paper that it is immoral to have children: if
(f) it is immoral to bring about avoidable suffering,
(g) having children has this effect.
I took the first statement to be self evidently true, and supported the second
by specifying two senses in which it can be said to be true.
Having children brings about avoidable suffering
in the sense that (h) all human beings suffer at some point in their lives,
and in the sense that (j) potential parents cannot guarantee that their
child’s life would not become at some point in time (physically, mentally, or
socially) overwhelmingly miserable."
In this revisited paper the author responds to the criticism of the collegues. Let's see those arguments:
According to Aksoy, it is right to allow any suffering our potential children can experience, because existence is in and of itself valuable, and non-existence is the paragon of evil. In his view, it is ‘‘immoral to ‘sentence’ someone to nonexistence while you have the chance to bring them into life’’.
Bennett, in her turn, argues that it is permissible to bring about some suffering, if good things in life depend on this. In her words, it ‘‘is in the interest of any child
whose life will be likely worth living overall, that he or she is brought to birth’’.
My main conceptual difficulty with these critiques is that I do not know who Aksoy and Bennett are talking about.
Who exactly is the absent someone who is sentenced to non-existence; and who precisely is the unborn child whose interests would be served by bringing
her to birth? How can we attribute experiences and interests to beings who have not existed in the past, do not exist now, and will possibly never
exist in the future?
Apart from this metaphysical problem, there are a couple of normative issues that I would like to raise. Aksoy seems to say that even individuals
whose lives would be utterly miserable—filled with suffering and nothing else—must be brought into
existence, when we have that chance.
If this is his message, I disagree and so do many others.5 8 9 I think that it would be inhumane to force suffering human beings to live. Aksoy’s view also implies
that we should spend our entire lives trying to make babies. Women should aim to be with child all the time, and men should probably focus on perfecting the techniques of ectogenesis and
This is not an impossible idea, of course, but it is not one that is likely to have wide popularity, either.
Bennett, on the other hand, resorts to the language of ‘‘worthwhile lives’’ (an expression, by the way, which is not used in my original paper). This is undoubtedly a good move in that it
helps her to avoid the criticism levelled at Aksoy’s more stringent view. It is not easy, however, to draw the line between
‘‘worthwhile’’ and ‘‘unworthwhile’’ lives in a universally acknowledged, or even widely accepted, way.
There we had the logical arguments outlined for us. If A then B. Love it.
Now a few words from the world around me.
In almost every evening news there is a call for help. Some child having a terrible condition and is suffering and/or dying. Not only there, on the popular websites, social networks and here we are - even in cafes:
I've found this scene a bit ironic. Here are the brightly colored children books with smiling fairy charachters naturally spreading the message of miracles, good winning over bad, happiness and the wonderfullness of this life we keep bringing kids into. And yet, among them - a box with a plea to help seriously sick children, who have little to no chances of making it unless their parents get substantial financial support from strangers.
There was one report of a boy who has fur growing on half of his face, one months-old baby whose liver gotten so big he can only sleep for 10 minutes at a time than he wakes up and cries because he has troubles breathing and is probably in pain. Then there is a boy who has painful seizures a few times a day when he simply breaks down and cries.
And there are countless cases like these and worse and it's neverending. People keep adding to the misery, without stopping to think what is it they're doing and why.
I'm looking at those kids and their parents and sometimes I feel bad for them all: the kids who got thrown into this brutal worls and the parents who fell for the deafening pronatalist propaganda: 'children are our future', 'children are the greatest happiness', 'you haven't fully lived until you've tried what having a child is' ...
And if you have a sick child that requires special care for the rest of their life? Or if one day something horrible happens to that child of yours? My god, I don't even want to have cats any more because I don't want to have to watch them die. But a kid? I can say I'm very happy knowing I don't have a sick crying child in my house, as some of those poor parents do. Life sucks as it is, why risk ruining it even more, especially since the risk isn't fully yours, it's also that new human being's you're thinking to create. The one who doesn't exist now and hence doesn't need anything.
In general, the author says, his first paper was about how it is 'all right not to reproduce':
"My practical conclusion in the paper was modest: (e) ‘‘Possible parents could be told that, according to at least one philosopher, it would be all right for them not to reproduce at all.’"
But hey, 2004 was the year the first paper got published (this one is revisited). Benatar's book came out 2 years later (although I now see some of his papers being referenced).
It takes guts to be among the pioneers to talk about such unpopular topics, especially if you're writing for a journal to be scrutinized by your collegues. Blogging is easier :D
Although the passage you quoted might be understood in the context of subjective evaluation by the person themselves, i.e. potential parents cannot guarantee that the lives of their children will be better than non-existence according to their own (the future person's) standards.
But you're probably right that non-existence is usually considered inferior to the best of lives on this planet.
Oh and thanks for locating the first article, I looked a little bit then went to bed, was too tired))
...because they're living miserable lives and have hit that middle-age crysis and they now want a reason to keep on going, so they jump on the baby-bandwagon and assume a baby is going to fix all their problems
Which reminded me of this passage from Onion: "Despite great variance in parenting styles across populations, the end product is always the same: a profoundly flawed and joyless human being. The study did find, however, that adults often achieve temporary happiness when they have children of their own to perpetuate the cycle of human misery"
In Ukraine, where I live, lots of people have children while still very young, barely 20 or 25-ish. Biologically it's not too young, but psychologically you're still a kid in rose-colored glasses. You feel healthy and full of energy, your parent's aren't yet sick and requiring care and dying, your hormones are thru the roof and you meet someone who seems so special and you have that love thing going on and why not, you follow the crowd and do what the majority did since the beginning of time. It's not like kids are taught philosophy in school or college. That's useless. Thought-free, unexamined life is an ideal. And when the circumstances will force you to question it, usually it will be too late to go back. You'll be stuck and tempted to rationalize that you're not, that you're living a dream. Because to admit to yourself you may have made some wrong decisions that are irreversible is a damn hard thing to do. So the show goes on...
Yes, it is disgusting how cheap one human life (and the ordeal experienced) is for some. These people need to face those on their death beds suffering from excrutiating pain for years and tell it to their faces that they are an acceptable collateral damage.
the dumbest part of society are breeding the most
If it weren't for the sex drive, there would hardly be any children.
well, not quite... I agree the quantity would significantly drop. But people have this urge to leave a trace behind. I mean, they go to fertility clinic to voluntarily refuse safe sex!))) Most of us can't invent or create something outstanding to surpass the flow of time, so we create what's available to virtually everyone - genetic offsprings. Then there's the thirst for meaning and purpose and lots of us don't really know what to do with our lives, what to live for. That's not to say children always fix these problems (often - replace them with new ones), but what you gotta do - our society sure advertises kids as your ultimate solution to feeling bored, lonely, miserable and useless. Create a baby and u'll have someone to love, who'll love u back no matter who you are. Besides, they'll feel obliged to look after you when you're old.
Y'all can invent and create art, but it won't last long.
Actually, it might, if you're a genius or just lucky. But what does that do? David Becker called that 'symbolic immortality'. People crave that, like they do many other things - irrationally. But so what if your art remains popular and remembered? What kind of immortality is that? So it depicts one of your moods or stores some of your thoughts maybe. Is that you? No. It's like a picture of you, that's all. Woody Allen's dark humor comes to mind: "I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying."))
We definitely need suicide clinics for the weary
Of course we need suicide clinics, people shouldn't have to hang themselves or jump of the roofs. We build maternity wards to help deliver people here without their consent. The least we can do is also build graceful exit houses where people could leave this plcae if they so choose.
Sorry that you feel so tired of life. One day it might happen to me, too, when the shit hits the fan.
How things are and how people choose to perceive them are two different things. I didn't mean there is actually something out there that would ensure some kind of symbolic immortality, but there is a popular opinion that such things exist - outstanding art and scientific discoveries being among them.
I hope at least in 500 years life will be done with. But people with their 'populate other planets' idea scare me.